Mini Book Reviews: Klara and the Sun and The Paper Menagerie

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the Sun takes us to a dystopic society that is scarily familiar. It’s the story of Klara, an Artificial friend who’s purpose is to act as a companion to children. It’s a society that normalises the use of artificial intelligence without the need to vilify them. As an AF, Klara’s shrewd observations heightens her curiosity about humans and, through her eyes we get to witness humanity in all of it’s flaws and beauty.

“There was something very special, but it wasn’t inside Josie. It was inside those who loved her.”

The nature of this book is quiet and evocative. As a narrator, Klara has a clinical disposition that is fuelled by curiosity of the wonders of human nature, giving weight to the natural cycles of humans. In Klara, we see how the influence of time and the consequences of choice shape the lives of our characters and the relationships they carry in life.

“Until recently, I didn’t think that humans could choose
loneliness. That there were sometimes forces more powerful than the wish to avoid loneliness.”

Klara and the Sun is a far from perfect book. The slow pace and the vagueness of certain elements can make it a frustrating read for some, but then again, maybe the lack of clarity is intentional. When have we as humans ever been sure about anything, and in some respect, not knowing the logistics of this technologically advanced society give readers the chance to truly relate to the natural cycle of human life.

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

It is rare to find a short story collection that is cohesive in its storytelling. The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories is a collection that covers science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, and historical fiction. However, despite this broad thematic approach, there is always a sense of intimacy that is raw and, at times, harrowing. It’s a collection that truly let’s readers understand how fantasy can heighten human emotion. So many themes explored in this collection are timely and relatable.

“Every act of communication is a miracle of translation.”

To those who have never read a Ken Liu book this collection is a great introduction to his exquisite writing. These stories are provocative, and versatile while being introspective and personal. This review won’t be covering all fifteen stories, but the two stand outs that I would urge everyone to read are The Paper Menagerie and The Man Who Ended the World: A Documentary. Both stories have such weight to them, with Paper Menagerie giving weight to a mother’s love, while The Man Who Ended the World explores the harrowing crimes against humanity committed in Unit 731. It’s horrifying, not just in the crimes committed, but in how these crimes are so often forgotten by history. Both stories are powerful in their own right and a testament to Liu’s emotive writing that makes this collection so memorable.

Have you read any of these books?
What did you think?
Are you a fan of short story collections?

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